Taking the time to truly craft---not simply 'make'---an album is a very tricky art that involves steering clear of trends and hunkering down into your own creativity. One wrong move and you could end up with a project that sounds like the moment in which it was recorded, which may already be passe by the time it's released. Hence, taking your time with music isn't so common these days, in an era where being first is almost more coveted than being correct. Luckily the time seems to stand still for artists like Jesse Boykins III, who effectively channels past and future into now.
If you are familiar with Boykins, you know about the Romantic Movement, a loose grouping of artists who have wrested 'romance' from the cold clutches of Corporate America and her need to use it to hock engagement rings or pack restaurants on Valentine's Day. For the 29-year-old Red Bull Music Academy alum, romance "can be applied to anything. When you are interested in something you have a romantic relationship with it, it doesn't have to be a person." From one listen to his new project, Love Apparatus, it's clear that Jesse has a romantic relationship to music, but it's the effort that should really be emphasized, especially in a world where years worth of hard work can drift to page 15 of a music blog in less than a day.
Love Apparatus took some five years to make, yet sounds incredibly fresh---a testament not only to Boykins' production, but the true-to-life messages in his muTake for instance 'Plain,' an uptempo dance record about realizing that a relationship is in need of work. Both cheerful and melancholy at the same time, the record represents the full spectrum of rediscovering and rebuilding love and yourself, all in under four minutes. Boykins describes it as "A courageous song in a sense, where you are being truthful to somebody you care about." His ability to speak to the nuance of human emotion and relationships is remarkable and refreshing in an era of mindless music.
Despite the industry's love of party and bullsh*t, Boykins is unwavering in his desire to make people think. "A lot of people who aren't truly passionate about something don't understand the frustration and aggression that comes with wanting a listener to get it. They just think 'You're too deep. You're thinking too heavy.' [But] I have a lot to say spiritually and about being a man and about developing as a human being and the laws of attraction and self confidence and all these really deep things," he says.
Part of what makes a truly classic album is the ability to either define or defy genre----the latter is something that Boykins is exceptionally skilled at. It's easy to think that you are categorizing his sound when you sit it next to something that neatly fits into a box, until you realize that you are slowly checking off several disparate boxes with each comparison. This sort artistic transmutability is something he learned early on, growing up and studying music in Miami with classmates from all across the world. His own travels would later teach him more about fluidity of expression than any syllabus ever would. Leaving your own environment gives artists "the confidence to say whatever you wanna say however you wanna say it to whoever," says Boykins. " When you've experienced things, taken a certain amount of risks and survived unfamiliar environments you feel a little bit more comfortable expressing whatever you want."
If you make it to New York this spring, you may see a huge black and white image of Boykins as a part of this years Red Bull Music Academy campaign, an invaluable marketing opportunity for an emerging indie artist---the sort of attention that could push him to center stage this year. This isn't something he takes for granted, as he builds his legend. "I do a lot of research as far as how certain artists develop and transition. I look at their overall evolution and try my best to acknowledge those moments in my career's development. It's really important to me and my brand and how I go about creating as well as connecting with other brands and entities. All of those things really matter when you think about longevity in this industry."
It doesn't seem like longevity will be a problem for Jesse at all. His mastery of the art of making music, connection to the the human condition and music industry savvy should protect him pitfalls that have vanished others.
Simply put it all equals effort, ain't that romantic?
Check out Jesse Boykins III's' Love Apparatus via his official website.
DonWill is a writer, musician and one-half of rap duo, Tanya Morgan. He lives in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter: @dondub